Saturday, 27 February 2010

Temporary Interruption

...normal service is on it's way.

I've not written as much this past 8 days as I'd hoped. Sorry about that. I don't like to let me reader down.

There's loads of ideas rolling around, just not got them into any kind of shape yet. It's coming though. Normal Service.

but what is *normal* anyway.

Friday, 19 February 2010

everything changes and it's all the same

If you are a fan of TED (a series of events where clever, interesting and generally wise people talk to people) then you might be aware of the Sarah Silverman thing that happened at this years event.

To summarise (via Michael Arrington):
"TED invites Sarah Silverman, a shock and insult comedian, to the event to give a talk. She turns up and shocks and insults, but for a good reason. The crowd doesn’t get it even though it plays right into their politics, and the event organizer trashes her publicly. Silverman hits back on Twitter, and there’s a quick cameo by Steve Case in the whole drama. Then it turns out Silverman is already donating her time to help fight the very issue she brought up in the talk."
So some of the noise about this event is about the use of words and you can find out more by having a look here - but I'm not so fussed about all the politics and the jibes being banded about. I'm left thinking that the next move is going to be crucial.

What can often happen when offence it taken (yes, taken) by either or both sides, is that walls are built, "they're all like that" becomes the voice in our heads we believe and there's an impass. No-one wants to change, to admit they were wrong (even a little).

TED (owned by The Sapling Fund) has impacted many people by publishing their content online, "free to the world". It's all about "Ideas worth spreading". I love that. However, will the response to this situation be that TED pulls down the blinds, to limit the people who they invite - even just a little? That would be a loss for the those who want to learn, to hear voices that they wouldn't normally have access too. And perhaps to be challenged by those who they might not always agree with. Surely this is the way that mature people handle things?! ;-p

I hope that the organisers are strong, that both sides admit that we're all still learning how to interact online and move on. I think they might get it, but only time will tell.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

watch this..., I'm not going to do tricks.

And neither is Jamie Oliver, but here's a raw, impassioned plea for the United States (and the rest of the west) to do something about what we eat.

It's not the best talk you will ever see or hear, but it's real, it's from experience and I don't think it's about self-promotion. While there's bound to be plenty of people who will say that he's not got all his facts right, you can't miss that there's truth in what he says.

Oh, and he tells it with brutal honesty. I love that.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

let me rephrase that...


Dave Gray (of XPLANE) recently used the *classic* AK-47 as an example of great design in the context of a design conference. He took a bit of flak from people for using a weapon as a positive example. It's worth reading what was quoted and the response on his blog. You can read that here.

I agree in the main with Dave's points in his reply, but that's not what got me thinking. I was simply reminded that we all have a lens through which the world is viewed. If you are anti-war/-gun/-death then the use of an AK-47 may be something you'd take offence at. It's the antithesis of your ethics, morals or taste - it's evil. It's a sign that there's little ethics in design anymore etc etc. It's. it's, it's... We miss the point that was being made and stay at our defensive position, ready to defend all who come against us.


The way I saw it was this: the gun is not something I'd hold up as a great thing. Let's be clear about that. The AK-47 is, however, a great piece of design (on the principle of what was it intended for? and does it do the job?).

I'm left thinking if the critic was listening or if Dave made his point this clearly enough. Sure, there may be a number of other examples - like the Land Rover.

But as Dave said. "It's in imperect world"

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

rank and file

One of the things I learned from Mitch Joel when I started listening to the Six Pixels of Separation podcast was to know how you rank on web searches.

This wasn't about being vain, but about making sure if someone is looking for you (or your products or services) that they can find you.

If you are meeting someone for the first time - be that 1-to-1, in a sales/service capacity or going to hear them speak at an event, it's more likely that you'll look them up on a search engine (or LinkedIn) to get a bit of background. If someone is looking for you or I, what are they going to find?

I'm no SEO expert (at this point), but to that end I keep an eye on a few things in my Google Reader feeds. Twitter, Blog and Website searches on topics I'm interested in. Having a listening post is one of the first things you'd learn in Trust Agents.

I've discovered a fair few people with the same name:

If you search for "andy weir" on Google, you find these results.

If you search for theWeir on twitter (theWeir being my handle/username) you find these results.

To my surprise there were a few people using #theWeir as a hashtag on Twitter on Saturday. Fortunatley, they were talking about a West End show...

So, do you track your online persona - or those of your businesses or projects? What works well for you?

Monday, 15 February 2010

what's your problem?

So, the title is a bit provocative. But you're okay with that, right?

I like what Tom Peters has to say about Leadership. I like a lot of what he has to say. Interesting 2 minute clip of some thoughts on what the real *problem* is:

So this makes me think about two things in particular:

1) responses are key, and our response is driven by our character. The responses I gave to questions as a know--most-of-it twenty year old are not the same ones that I would give now. Some of that is a good thing. Most of it, in fact, but there's a tiny part of me wants to respond with that little bit more clarity than I do now. But that's an aside.

2) our behaviours will lead to us having to respond. We can't just do stuff and expect to get away with it. I don't think we were made to just float through life without being accountable for who we are and how we live our lives.

What's your response? Do you care what other's responses are going to be?

I'm definitely asking that my character continues to mature - with losing the freshness of my youth. Stale = stinky!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Look! Who's talking?

A few months ago, Seth wrote this:

Most people grow up with one and only one voice in our heads. It's the one that talks when we talk to ourselves. (If you have more than one voice, time to check in with a doctor). It's easy, then, to assume that this is the mind, that we have just one, one brain, one voice, one thing going on at a time.

We can demonstrate that this isn't actually true. There's the mind that gets nostalgic or excited at a photo or a smell or a sound. There's the mind that keeps us breathing. There's the mind that suddenly announces, "I'm hungry" after seeing a TV commercial. And most important to marketers and those that would change the status quo, there's the lizard brain, the mind that worries, particularly about survival, reproduction and rage.

When the plane lurches in turbulence, it's not your constantly running verbal mind that freaks out. It's the amygdala, the prehistoric brain stem (and the surrounding parts of the brain) that kick in. That kick leads the verbal mind to start a frightening monologue, but it was your brain stem that started it.

Marketing to just the rational mind makes no sense, because the rational mind almost never decides anything by itself. And managing your career or your day based on your irrational fears makes even less sense. Which part of your mind makes decisions about credit cards, personal security, relationships, job prospects and creativity?

As our jobs (and lives) get more cerebral and less physical, our misunderstandings about the mind (and the self-defeating miscalculations each of us make every day) become ever more important. Watch yourself for a day and start keeping store of 'who' is doing the talking and whether that part of the brain is working in your best interests or not.

What do you think? As people who have to face our doubts or be overcome, I think there's a lot of truth here.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Such a clear way of illustrating the different worlds we can inhabit.

Coming from the business side of the tracks in the recent academically-driven "Vitrtualisation & Society" event, I noticed the apparent disconnect between the two. I'm not saying either extremes are wrong, but they need to be mindful of each other. Infact, we live in the tension of these worlds!

(cartoon from XYCD here)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Beneath the Sheets?

I've listened to The Moth podcast for about 18 months now. You find out more about The Moth here. It's not always the kind of content you'd let your children listen to, but most of the time these live stories leave a mark on you.

Jerry Mitchell's story (under the title "Beneath the Sheets") was quite spectacular in it's content, delivery and conclusion. I really didn't see that coming.

Have a listen and share what you think:

Thursday, 11 February 2010


The Industrial Revolution overhauled everything - from villages to cities. Automation and Process became king. Cheap, cheaper & cheapest are the rules. Scale it, refine it, make it more efficient. While we think that the Industrial Revolution is over, and it probably has run it's course - we've still not figured it all out.

So we might have amazing technology - and we might have a globablised economy, but simply ask someone who works in a sweatshop in Bangalore or someone feeling trapped in an outsourcing call centre in Nottingham and you'll quickly find out that industrialisation is far from perfect. And it won't be. Ever.

We've learned how to change things more efficiently. We've learned how to make things more efficiently. We've learned how to move things more efficiently. We've learned about scale. We've learned to adapt to more change faster too.

I guess that's one reason why adoption of tech moved gets quicker and quicker. Radio took 38 years to get to 50 million users. TV took 12 years. Facebook took one year. Ouch.

So I guess when people get unsettled by the current online/social revolution - it's understandable, but we can't possibly expect it to be perfect, can we?

It's going to be full of holes. But maybe fewer than the past?

Interestingly, though, we generally expect change to be perfect. We complain when our new technology isn't perfect. We expect that it should be. For many *things* we use at home, that's a good thing - gas cookers, boilers, toasters, microwaves as a few examples. We expect that if it comes from a centralised source that it should be perfect. They had control and they should know better.

But, it's not like that.

The web is just a young thing, yet so vast and crucially decentralised (by design) that it can't be tested and brought to the market from a controlled environment. There is so little control in the web that we can't expect it to work "out of the box" like an Apple Computer.

Maybe we can learn a bit of patience - taking comfort in the idea (that I think might be right) that we are still ironing out the details in something that started years ago.

Taking a nod from TechCrunch, when online search was still figuring out how to work, just ten years ago those active in the space felt a lot like people active in the social space now. Okay, so a lot more people are looking - and our levels of connectivity are far higher now - but that's just showing how important it is.

What we - together - do with social/new media will determine what the online landscape looks like in another 10 years time?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Filtered tastes better

A few months ago, Mike Arthur made a passing mention about the merits of using email filters. This was, of course, during a (slightly geeky) face-to-face conversation. I'd filed that mention for future reference and we carried on putting the world to rights.

I filed it because my outside-of-employer email was a mess.

What kind of mess?

Since getting more into new media, the volume of email I was getting was becoming unbearable. Twitter, Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, Flickr and blog comments all notifying me that the world had something to say. All vying for my attention. It was noisy. As well as all that social *stuff*, there were newsletters, group updates, subscriber offers - oh and email from people too. And I was having to spend time sorting it all out. And not getting very much done.

You get from all that was I keen on doing this whole thing more efficiently.

What did I do?

Mike's mail client of choice was GMail - as was mine. Also, it's worth mentioning that I'd set a few rules up in Lotus Notes for employer-related email, so understood the concept - but had never transferred it to my non-employer stuff. It's odd how we can do that sometimes!

So, to get started, I simply logged into GMail, looked at my inbox, selected a message and started to create rules. It's pretty simple in GMail - just select "More Options" > "Filter messages like these" and set the parameters for the filter. It'll even ask you if you want to do this retrospectively too. I filtered Notifications from various services into specific folders like this:

For content that I want to try and read every day, I created a "reading" folder. Others, like newsletters and offers I might only read once every few days.

The beauty of this for me is that GMail on my G1 uses the same labels (as it's accessing the same mail files) so I can read the content on the move and take action there & then.

Then what?

After trying this for a few days, I found it worked. I wasn't checking my phone every 15 minutes when a notification or some other email was received. There was (at least the illusion of) control.

So I did another couple of things as well. I have a .mac account, but it's lacking the feature set of GMail so I now pull in my .mac email to GMail. That has a folder of it's own, but also filters regularly received content into relevant folders.

I also unsubscribed to a few newsletters and updates that I simply didn't need. Gone. And not missed.

A huge advantage is with notifications for flickr & Facebook. If I've checked into these services and seen the updates on the web interface, I can simply select all and delete. Easy. If I've not checked in, I can quickly see if there's anything needing responded to or at least acknowedged without having to log in. I guess that feels more efficient that it reads (!).

Last thing I did was decide to move all my email from the folders on my Powerbook into GMail. Yep, all email is now stored centrally and accessed via IMAP. This means it's all accessible on the move, so if there's an invoice from 2006 I need to pull up, I can do that.

So JB, there you go, some thoughts on what I've done to clear up email

A quick search tonight unearthed this useful blog post too.

That's what worked for me - what's your experience been? Do you have other methods? Let me know!

Monday, 8 February 2010


JL recently asked me why I use the moniker "theWeir".

My first response? Because when I registered for twitter around 18 months ago, the username AndyWeir was taken. As were more sensible variations on the same. So I thought "theWeir" would work. Especially as there can be only one Weir. Yeah, right?!

But this wasn't the only possible reason why my online interactions (particularly outside of Facebook) are under this identity.

Curiously, some people at work who've caught up with me online outside of work are known to use that moniker is person. Which is fine, good and proper, but still feels a bit strange. Maybe a bit like a recently married lady hearing her new surname being read out?

So, working back in time, from twitter, I started my blog here in November 2008 (moving from my old iWeb blog here), I called it "weir online". See what I did there? So I was theWeir online.

But it all started back in early 2000s. I met the Mighty Quinn. Not the song, but the man. He signed his email & sms with a "Q". He was (and forever shall be) Quinn. I liked that. I liked his style. I like theQuinn.

At the same time, our good friend Mr Clive Parnell does a proper London boi accent. Mainly 'cos he's got family there. And when we played in a band together (IndigoEcho) it was around the time when speaking in a mockney accent was a bit cool, like.

And there was a phrase used (often) "easy for the [insert object here]". On seeing you, CP was often prone to hailing with "easy for theWeir" or "easy for theFrancis" (Bass player) and "easy for theQuinn". I guess it was *inspired* by Ali G being all over pop culture at the time...

And so, it just kinda stuck in my head.


Apparently, there's a play called The Weir. There are a few resturaunts called The Weir. Infact, there's plenty of Weirs around the place.

But none of them are why I chose "theWeir".

At least that's my (not very interesting story) and I'm sticking to it.

Isn't it cool how these things weave together during our lives?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Art isn't perfect

It's slowly getting into my head that like everything in life, art doesn't need to be perfect.

I used to have this notion - probably driven by an assumption made as a child - that when someone publishes something, or shares something - that it is "finished".

But here's the thing.

That's nonsense.

It's not to be spotless. It can't be.

Many products and services are sold with the gloss that makes them appear "perfect", and we feel let down when something doesn't come up to that standard. But wait, most products and services aren't perfect. They reach the point of being "good enough", but perhaps not perfect (exceptions to that being boxes of Lego, and perhaps some precision engineering instruments).

"Marketing" can shoulder some of the blame for trying to convince us that brand X is perfect over brand Z. We can also bear some responsibility for swallowing all those messages.

I'm thinking that it's all about interpretation and that means a lens.

The lens we view the world through - and also the lens of expectation. If I pay £5 for a meal in a bar, I'm not expecting that it's perfect. I'm expecting it's cooked enough, has no hair in it and at least some nutritional value. If I'm paying £25 for a meal in a bar, I'm expecting much more. However, I can't expect it to be perfect.

We can't do perfect as we're not perfect. We can work hard to get better (known to those who care about such thing as practice). We can apply ourselves to improve. But ultimately, we have to recognise that there comes a point when it's good enough. When it's just got to go.

And what of art? Well, art is by nature unfinished. It reflects a thought, a moment, a concept, the faintest of ideas and the energy that the artist could through at it.

The music I hear recorded in a studio was not meant to be perfect. It was meant to reflect the reality of the songs as well as they can.

That sermon I heard at church was not meant to be perfect. Even if it was highly polished and full of wit, truth and reality.

I guess that's why I've come to terms with music I've made in the past not being as polished as I'd like and why I can enjoy the process that an artist has gone through as much as the end result.

Anyway, a bit of a rant, but I wonder what your views are.

Do you think that things can be perfect? Am I missing the point of art?

PS - in this post about change, Seth Godin hints that we need to get over our fear of things not being okay. I TOTALLY agree.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Sleep | Habits

Habits are great. Habits are the *worst* thing ever.

Last week, wasn't the best for the weeWeir and sleeping. While Jenny bore the brunt of that, it impacted us both. But let's be clear. It hit Jenny much more than me.

That said, I found myself on Thursday morning, en route to work, thinking that I could either shrink into the corner, be unproductive and generally sleep through the *working* day, saying "I'm knackered" and "here's why" as an excuse.

Or I would acknowledge that I need more energy, but I'll do my best. I'd be able to do more than survive the day, but be able to enjoy these (albeit slightly fuzzy) moments of life.

And if it goes well, and good things come out of it, then that's good. I can't blame a lack of sleep for things going well, but I'm not going to blame that for things not going well!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Before you buy it...

I like to drink water. Nothing new there. I'm sure we all like to keep ourselves hydrated. If not, then you're in bother.

Bottled water is not my first choice. I'm comfortable with tap water most of the time (because Scottish water is generally pretty clean and tasty). Let's not get into a discussion about fluridation though. I guess filtered tap water would do a good job.

What's this all about? Well, I read Valeria's post about bottled water and was reminded of this video (Penn & Teller and NSFW)

Watch this, then read Valeria (even if it is US-centric) and then decide what you will do next!

UPDATE: amended the links to Valeria's post.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


It's nice to give. It's nice to give out of more than just your abundance, but give something that costs.

Like your blood. (warning, this topic may make some people feel a little wooooooozy)

Think about it in abstract and it's a bit bizarre to consider your blood going into a bag. Deliberately.

I got a letter from the Scottish Blood Donor Service saying thanks for donating in 2009. This was more than just a few lines and a "thank you", but included four stories of real people whose lives were changed - or even saved - thanks in part to the blood they received. It's always more personal when there's a real story being told.

I carried this letter in my bag for a few days to remind me that I need to go and give blood again soon. Why? because I'm not just putting blood in a bag, but I'm putting blood in a person.

And that's a very encouraging thought.

You can read the stories and get involved at